Analysis of current squad of LA Lakers
Los Angeles Lakers, the most dominant and charismatic franchise of modern NBA, went into some recent struggles as they find themselves without a superstar player after a long time. Their run after Phil Jackson’s era and Kobe Bryant’s 5th championship was nothing short of horrible by Lakers standard. Kobe went down battling multiple injuries including the ruptured Achilles tendon, which took out most of what he had to offer, as he said goodbye to his 20 years’ all-time great career in 2016. Lakers went into rebuild mode drafting young talents like Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram, D’ Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and some recent prospects with high potential in Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart. A lot of changes took place in the front office too as Ervin Magic Johnson took the responsibility of the President of Basketball Operations. Along with GM Rob Pelinka, and coach Luke Walton, the franchise is looking to get back into their winning ways as they are showing great promise this season.
Lakers are currently 11th in Western Conference after a slow start. They currently sit with a record of 31-37 and are 8 games behind that 8th playoff spot with 14 games left. They have a tough road ahead to make it to playoffs in a strong Western Conference but this season has given them a lot of hope and satisfaction with the decisions they took for the quest of another championship.
Lakers gave away some players like Russell, Clarkson and Larry Nance and got rid of some tidy contracts to clear cap space and give some playing time to new rookies. They now go into free agency with room to sign two max contracts players, and with this young core they really look scary! They are 11-3 after all-star break and are 16th in power rankings heading into week 23.
Talking about their core let’s see what this group looks like now.
1. Lonzo Ball:
The number 2 overall pick, former UCLA guard, is a playmaker with high expectation. After his father Lavar Ball made some really outrageous comments about him, he has been the most hyped rookie recently, analogous to what LeBron went through in his rookie year. He averages 10-7-7-2-1 showing is over all skills and high IQ basketball. He obviously didn’t match the hype’s expectation, but he shows potential of a superstar as he leads the team in assists, defensive ratings and rebounds (for major amount of time in the season) making him a really valuable franchise player. He has tremendous vision and is still working on his shooting as he didn’t match the numbers he put up in UCLA. He is a really good rookie and Lakers have been in search of a point guard, from Steve Nash to Russell and Clarkson. They just couldn’t find a proper guy, until Lonzo Ball. He is certainly the one to hold on to.
2. Kyle Kuzma:
The 1st round 27th overall pick from the university of Utah, Kyle is certainly a steal for the Lakers. He is a high scoring forward who has a potential to be 25-10 a night, moving forward. Kyle is averaging 15-2-6 as a rookie and has been in contention for the rookie of the year and certainly has been the best rookie for the Lakers. Kyle has a lot of room to grow and has strong fundamentals. He has to improve his defense this offseason so that he can be a full time starting franchise forward for the Lakers. Him and Lonzo share a great connection and the future is bright for this star.
3. Julius Randle:
Julius is the 2014 1st round 7th overall pick by the Lakers from Kentucky. He is a 6’ 9” forward-center and a really physical player down low. He is a career 13-3-9 guy who also has a potential to be 25-10 as he progresses. He has shown how aggressive and beastly he can be in the recent stretch after all-star break. He has a caliber to be the starting center as he scores and rebounds the ball really well in the paint. Randle will be a free agent this summer and Lakers can afford to hold on to him as they build themselves to be a contender.
4. Brandon Ingram:
The 2016 2nd overall pick from Duke, Brandon is the best player in Lakers uniform right now. His style of play draws attention to great players like Kevin Durant. His is a tall forward who can really score the basketball. He is improving his 3 point shooting as Lakers made him their go to guy this season. He is averaging 16-4-5 in his second year and is growing to be a starting forward for Lakers with a potential to score 30 a night.
These 4 players are currently going to be the building blocks for Lakers. Management has done a great job surrounding them with player’s like Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and a solid bench rookie Josh Hart.
As Free Agency approaches, Lakers are going to be a great spot to land on. They are young and athletic. They play defense and have a great ball movement in their offense. Lonzo Ball has been great in pushing the pace and getting people open. The chemistry is also great between these guys as they look to bring back the show time.
Lakers have room for 2 max contracts this summer as they are hunting for superstars to add into a great core. Laker market is also a Free Agent attraction as we look at some notable Free Agents they would really like to add.
1. LeBron James:
A lot of teams have been recruiting the King as he walks into the Free Agency and Lakers are one of them. But, I don’t think he is going to be a great fit. Lakers play pacey, ball movement type offense and hustle in the defensive side. LeBron will be 34 and as we see he has already lost his step on defense. LeBron’s offense works well when players play off-the-ball and he is surrounded with shooters and a big center. The offense will fall stagnant and frustrations will rise in the young players when defense won’t work. If they do sign him, they will put the growth of young guys in jeopardy, specially Ingram and Lonzo. They already have an elite playmaker; they don’t need LeBron.
Lakers have their starting point-guard, forwards and a good center. They can be smart and shop for good shooting guards and a dominating center. As Brook Lopez and Isaiah Thomas become Free Agent, they also have to sign players to increase the bench depth.
2. Paul George:
He can complement this team really well. Brandon Ingram can play 2 guard for this superstar 2-way scorer as Paul George will be a great addition to his hometown team. If OKC experiment doesn’t work out for him he can exercise his options and Lakers will be a great landing spot for him.
3. DeMarcus Cousins:
This All-NBA center will be a really good upgrade for the center spot over Brook Lopez. He has been nothing short of spectacular. But, he recently tore his Achilles and this arises a lot of questions of whether he will be back as his own self. Also, his push to that starting spot will lead to sacrifices from Randle and Kuzma.
4. Deandre Jordan:
He is also a great center to have for any team. But, he will arise the same concern regarding the starting spot, as Lakers have to bench either Kuzma or Randle.
If Lakers acquire Paul George it would be better for them to not go after Cousins. They can shop for Deandre if he agrees to play with the bench. If they won’t be able to land Paul George, then they should go after these centers. They can then push Ingram to 2 and put up a dominating frontcourt of Kuz, Randle and either of these two. They can push for Kawhi Leonard too, if they can get hands on him via some trades. But, this guarantees loss of pieces from the core.
Lakers need to build up a good bench too. They have their own free agents in Isaiah Thomas, Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They can push for Tyreke Evans, Nikola Mirotic, Avery Bradley, Jusuf Nurkic and JJ Redick. If they can come to an agreement with Isaiah on coming off the bench, they should really sign him. He can score and run the offense with the 2nd team. Other names here are perfectly suitable for them too. Tyreke, Bradley and JJ are great shooting guards. Avery Bradley can fill up the starting spot too. Nurkic and Mirotic are also producing for their current teams and will be a great addition to this team.
Lakers have a bright future and a lot of cap to run the Free Agency market. Magic Johnson has been on point with his decisions and we are really looking forward to an exciting offseason. They should trust what these young guys have to offer and make some moves that complement their growth. No one knows what’s going to happen in this business. Kevin Durant will also be a Free Agent!